Dennis Kerr, a member of Underwood Hills, shared this experience with me, and I'm sharing it with you...
Memorial Day weekend was very interesting. I am traveling right now to the oil fields of North Dakota. I brought along my VFW cap just in case, and I wore it to the local Memorial Day service up here in Williston, ND. People here are a little shy and reserved, and this boom economy is probably a good thing for them to come out of their shell. One funny story… I attended a church, and about a hundred people were there, and nobody greeted me … at all. To his credit, the pastor gave a good sermon about welcoming people and greeting visitors. I braced myself to be greeted like I had never been greeted before. But after church… nobody spoke to me. I came up with an excuse to tell the guitar player I liked his style, but that was it.
When I came to the Memorial Day celebration at the main cemetery, there was a Legion honor guard and scattered VFW hats from some very small posts. I pulled up on my bicycle, and within 10 minutes, I was greeted by several people from different groups, and invited to join their post. I explained that I am here only temporarily, and that I will be going home soon.
I am in contact with a few people at funeral homes, and the VA, and I plan to do taps at a few funerals while I am up here. And this whole situation made me think about how important it is for us to treat people who are new to a community.
For a while, I am staying at this hotel, and half the housekeepers are Mexican, or Hispanic. News on the television was playing as one nice Mexican lady was replacing my towels. She didn’t say a word to me as the pictures of children were taken from refugees.
Not knowing what to think, a memory came back to me from almost 17 years ago. One day Rev. Keith Cook was giving a sermon very shortly after the events of 9/11. At the time many people, even myself, were driven to distraction by the event and feeling very angry. He said, “I called the Mosque and said to the Imam, I don’t blame you for this, and I appreciate you as our neighbor.” When he said that, I realized I was on a self-righteous bent. So I promised myself to be more like him, if something like that happened again.
I said to housekeeper about taking kids from asylum seekers, “not everyone here agrees with that, and I appreciate it that you are here." She smiled to me, and said, “thank you, its wonderful, people are saying that to me all day.” I felt reassured that I was not the only one feeling that way among my fellow Americans.
When my grandfather came to liberate a concentration camp towards the end of WW II, he decided then which side he was on. As a Native American, he too had faced discrimination, and he knew his history. My great-grandfather with a thick German accent also faced discrimination and hatred during WW II while his son, my uncle, drove a tank and liberated France… at 3 mph in the harsh violent winter.
They knew the results of angry words about people who seem different. They remind me to be kind to those who seek to live in freedom with us.